Former WPIAL athlete Dessie Mitcheson left Pittsburgh area fairways for international runways a long time ago. Now she’s going from a big-time model to a small business owner.
And she’s doing so back home in Western Pennsylvania.
Mitcheson — who was a golfer and regionally top-15 ranked diver at Kiski Area High School — got her big break in the modeling industry in 2011 when she won a Hawaiian Tropic contest. From there, the Apollo native landed on the front cover of Maxim magazine in 2013, a slot in Sports Illustrated’s S.I. Now swimsuit pages, a ring card job for the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight, a spot on CBS’ “Amazing Race,” and she was the face of MGM Grand.
But after 10 years in the business, Mitcheson is going down a different path in the fashion industry, selling clothes in her recently created East West Boutique. It’s an online women’s shopping outlet she launched in May with Jen Atchison, a long-time friend and Kiski classmate.
“It’s been a really good change,” Mitcheson, an Apollo native, said Wednesday. “I’ve been modeling for 10 years. And this is the next step. Jen and I have been friends since seventh grade. And it all just fell into place, how we wanted to do this.”
Apollo native Dessie Mitcheson, who gained fame as a model is going into the business world — selling clothes through East West Boutique, an online women’s shopping outlet.
East West is so named because Mitcheson helps run it from her home in California, while Atchison holds down her half of the business from New Kensington. The pair hope that they can eventually launch a brick-and-mortar store somewhere in greater Pittsburgh and perhaps California as well.
“There is definitely something in the works first off locally here in Pittsburgh,” Atchison said. “It’s going to be up and running pretty soon here. We definitely are going to be opening up a storefront soon.”
Part of the business’ goal is to promote body positivity. That’s something Mitcheson appreciates can be a challenge for many consumers to embrace. A lack of confidence may lead to a negative self-image and a lack of willingness from some potential clients to believe they are worthy of buying certain styles and outfits.
After all, everyone isn’t (literally) a swimsuit model like she is. But Mitcheson and Atchison want to erase those fears some women have.
“Jen and I decided we wanted to base our business on all-inclusive sizing, female positivity, and everyone embracing their size,” Mitcheson said. “Size 00 to 4x. All ages. All women.”
Western Pennsylvania natives Dessie Mitcheson (right) and Jen Atchison are launching East West Boutique, an online women’s shopping outlet.
To that end, Mitcheson is flying back to Pittsburgh for an event she and Atchison are staging for the boutique’s VIP members at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 15 at the Vandergrift Pool in Allegheny Township to promote body positivity and self-fulfillment for women in the area.
“Everybody is beautiful in your own skin. No matter what shape or size you are. And we hope that encourages other women,” Atchison said.
Mitcheson models many of the clothes online. But Atchison says it’s her friend’s demeanor that usually moves customers to buy.
Western Pennsylvania natives Dessie Mitcheson (left) and Jen Atchison are launching East West Boutique, an online women’s shopping outlet.
“Dessie can turn on being a model,” Atchison said. “But her true personality shines through. She is a down-to-earth, hometown girl. It doesn’t feel like you are buying clothes from a supermodel. It feels like you are buying clothes from your best friend.”
For her part, Mitcheson isn’t completely getting out of the modeling game just yet. She says if the right job comes along, she’ll take it. But her main goal is to help grow this partially Pittsburgh-based business, even if she’s still living in California.
Because she wants to sell the message as much as the clothes.
“We want everyone to know they are beautiful,” Mitcheson said.
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